Thursday, 19 October 2023
I rise to register my absolute disappointment at the Australian Energy Regulator rejecting the legal challenge made by concerned farmers and community members against the VNI West energy transmission project. For months, I have advocated for regional communities following a shambolic consultation process by the Australian Energy Market Operator, AEMO, which failed to recognise all credible options and then played the community for fools along the way with tokenistic meetings. The regulator's criteria clearly need to be rewritten if they can rule that AEMO followed the correct process when developing the VNI West route.
Ever since February, when the Victorian Labor energy minister, Lily D'Ambrosio, made a ministerial order to alter the VNI West route to what became Option 5 while banning appeals, land holders have been getting little clarity. The minister then made a second order in May creating Option 5A, which has been challenged in the Supreme Court by a community alliance who are still awaiting judgement. I give all farmers and their communities credit for standing up for themselves and challenging the Victorian government to prevent their prime agricultural land from being railroaded by transmission line projects.
Professor Bruce Mountain, Director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre, makes salient points when it comes to the VNI West interconnector. Given transmission lines act like a bridge between two points for the purpose of transporting energy from one side to the other, is there really any need for these lines when energy is already being developed in all three states? While Victoria has been a long-time electricity exporter, renewables will no longer require that. After all, the sun shines and the wind blows across the whole country. The cost imperatives that once justified interconnection with coal and gas are no longer there, Professor Mountain explains, because there is so little difference between states in the cost of generating wind and solar energy. He says there is 'inconsequential value in relation to the enormous cost of interconnection'. It adds insult to the injury of the 10,000 kilometres of high-voltage poles and wires that Australia must build by 2050 to satisfy the Albanese Labor government's push to net zero.
Recently, I met with Pete Williamson and many other concerned farmers at Normanville in the north of my electorate who oppose a wind farm development that will also compromise their livelihoods and family homes, not to mention the effect on the environment and native wildlife. (Time expired)